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What is SWIFT, and why is it a sticking point in the efforts against Putin?

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Vladimir Putin has started a war by invading Ukraine, and so it may seem odd that people are getting worked up about a “financial messaging system.”

But that “messaging system,” called SWIFT, is a crucial tool for all sorts of commerce across national borders, and plenty of commentators and leaders believe Russia needs to be knocked out of it.

SWIFT is the Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunications. As Radio Free Europe explains it:

“SWIFT is a behemoth in the financial-communications industry thanks to its ease of use, speed, and security. It can help banks complete cross-border payments in under five minutes and offers end-to-end tracking.

“‘It is the most trusted kind of cross-border payment-messaging system out there, and so it’s hugely important,’ said Brian O’Toole, a former senior adviser at the U.S. Treasury Department.”

If U.S. and European leaders agree, they could kick Russia off SWIFT, and thus Russian companies and the government might effectively…

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